Several posts back I discussed stalking, with the emphasis on strange men keeping a woman under surveillance and causing her distress. But there are other ways in which one can feel under siege. Spam emails are one example. Another is being called incessantly on your landline or mobile phone by sales and marketing people.
This year has been especially bad for this, at least in my own experience. I have noticed a great increase in such calls to my personal landline and mobile numbers.
With the landline, I am (of course) ex-directory. But that isn't a protection. Throughout most of 2012, I was getting at least two calls per day on my landline, at lunchtime, and in late afternoon or early evening. Some of these I answered at first. It was always a foreign-sounding person, pretty obviously speaking from a call centre. At other times, I heard only silence, which at first I found frightening, as if this was the beginning of a reign of terror by some Person Unknown! But it was simply a machine-made call, and my girly squawk wasn't recognised. Had I given the right kind of 'hello' (with a deep male voice, I suppose), I might have been connected to a real person. I soon decided that if I did answer, the caller would know for certain that my number was 'live', and that further persistence would eventually force me (or someone else they might assume lived in my home) to pick up the handset and get drawn into a conversation. They'd want personal information, so that they could sell me something, a service or a product, or pass what I disclosed on to someone else for a fee. No way. I'd ignore these calls entirely.
But it was irritating whenever the handset burst into life, and then rang and rang. It wasn't a nice sound. It jangled. It got on my nerves. It was an intrusion that I quickly grew to resent. And of course, my landline handset didn't tell me who was calling. Not that I'd have been any wiser if it had had a display, because after the ringing eventually stopped, and I dialled 1471 to find out who had called, BT could only tell me that 'the caller left no number'. Maddening. This was the signature of a sales or marketing call, or, more lately, calls from firms chasing up payment protection insurance business.
Nine days ago I got a call like this which went on for a full minute. That was too much. I decided to do something I'd been considering for some time: I disconnected the landline handset. Only the handset. I could still get my Broadband. But now, at a stroke, I had silenced all incoming phone calls to my landline.
Peace at last!
Disconnection would hardly affect voice calls from friends and family, because nearly all of those came through on my mobile phone nowadays, if they didn't simply text. I could still temporarily reconnect the landline handset if (unusually) I wanted to ring BT, Vodafone or anyone who had to be contacted using an '0800' number. There was in fact nobody else that I might want to phone using the landline.
It was drastic measure, but I soon got used to it. The sense of relief was wonderful.
Anyone who wished to speak with me was now obliged to use my mobile number only. This was much easier for me, because the screen on my mobile phone let me see who was calling, and of course the ringtone was easier on the ears.
I'd left Vodafone's 'under 18' filter in place, which seemed to protect me from unwelcome 'adult' calls. I might still get 'Private Number' calls (from people who wished to stay anonymous), calls from '07000' numbers not in my mobile phone's address book (and therefore not from a friend or family member, or anybody I knew), and calls from '0800' numbers ('special service' numbers). But all of these were rare. Until recently.
During the last month, I began to get more and more calls from a variety of '0800' numbers. Well, my house insurance was coming up for renewal, and I knew that insurance companies shared details among themselves. It was an easy guess that at least some of these '0800' calls were from insurance companies. I duly ignored them all.
In fact, to prevent my mobile phone ringing when an '0800' number called me, I used the filter facility on my Samsung Galaxy SII to reject all incoming numbers starting with '08...'. It worked, in the sense that the phone didn't ring and disturb me, but they still showed up on my call log. It was like knowing that you were still being stalked, even though the stalker remained out of sight - but you knew he was out there somewhere, obsessed by thoughts of invading your life.
And one caller was very persistent: their number was 0808 099 6746. They were calling me often, generally twice a day. It all started to get very annoying, even after all '0800' calls were being rejected.
Now there is a website I use called Who phoned me?, which you can find on http://www.whophonedme.co.uk/. Using their search facility, you can look up any number that calls and find out whether others have been pestered in the same way. Their comments and warnings are there to read. It seemed that 0808 099 6746 could be one
of Vodafone's numbers. I'm with Vodafone. I guessed that they were after me to offer some service. It would be something I wouldn't want. I hoped that if I didn't answer, they'd give up, or the offer would expire.
Well, their calls continued.
Right, I thought. That's quite enough of this nonsense! I phoned 0808 099 6746 back, to find out what it was all about.
It was Vodafone. A recorded message said they'd been trying to make a 'courtesy call', and might make further attempts to reach me. I was then warned that continuing with the call would cost me 14p per minute. Fine, let's get to the bottom of it. The message went on: I now had to phone another number: 0808 000 0155. So be it. Ah! A human being answereth. It was a pleasant-voiced lady. How could she help me? I said I'd been getting these 'courtesy calls', but they had turned into a nuisance and could they stop, please? She apologised, and said they would. Oh, thank you.
Was it as easy as that? For a couple of hours, I thought yes, it's fixed. And then three hours after speaking with the nice lady, my phone log showed that 0808 099 6746 had tried to phone yet again...
I'm just hoping that after Christmas this caller will go away. This sort of thing gets to me.
I haven't yet found anything on the Vodafone website that will let me restrict contact from them to emails and texts only. If these calls persist, I may look into the fine print of their Terms and Conditions, and threaten them with breach of contract on their part - and the early termination of our agreement. And then move on to another mobile service provider, although I doubt whether they will behave any differently.